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Maybe no more.

All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis credited Kaepernick and Co. for bailing out the defense against the Packers, especially in the first half, when Kaepernick had 11 carries for 107 yards rushing to give the 49ers a 24-21 lead. The unproven quarterback simply ran away from Green Bay in the second half, and the reigning MVP couldn’t keep up.

“I joke with him all the time, I say, `You’ve got to be one of the biggest and strongest quarterbacks I’ve seen,’” Willis said. “He’s fast. It’s just one thing when you see a guy get behind a guy and they try to run and the guy already has a step on him. But to see a guy come across the field at an angle and he eats up the angle, to us, that’s fast. That guy’s moving.”

Ramping up plays out of the Pistol formation he ran at Nevada, Kaepernick’s size and speed overwhelmed the Packers in ways he hadn’t in his first seven starts since taking over.

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman admitted he 49ers had been saving some of those schemes _and Kaepernick’s legs _ for the playoff push. Kaepernick, the first college football player with three seasons of 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing, surely surprised the opposition with all those read-option runs, including a 56-yarder TD keeper in the third quarter _ the longest by a quarterback in franchise history _ that eclipsed Vick’s mark.

“I think they thought I had it,” James said. “That’s what I told him. I know once he gets past the second level, nobody’s going to touch him.”

Kaepernick’s performance was hardly perfect.

He threw an interception returned for a touchdown by Sam Shields on the fourth play of the game, had a taunting penalty for throwing the ball down in the face of Packers defenders after getting tackled in the second quarter and often had problems getting the offense out of the huddle quickly.

As San Francisco also knows maybe more than any other playoff team, sustaining success is not easy.

Five previous times this season the 49ers have won two in a row, and all five times they have failed to win the next game, including a 24-24 tie against St. Louis in Week 10. If they want a trip to New Orleans, they’ll have to find a way to put together something they haven’t all season: a winning streak.

“It feels like we’re in the same place,” Crabtree said. “Winning that game last year, we’re in the same place. It’s just what we do the next game. It’s all about the next game.”

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